Frequently asked questions about Speaking
Q: Why should we trust that you know what you are talking about?
A: I have been studying the topics I talk about for over 20 years, and always read a mass of research, from different viewpoints, before I dare talk with authority about any new topic. I have a classically trained and highly analytical mind and do not believe anything I read or hear unless it is well supported by robust research and fits with my existing understanding. Because I am not a research scientist, I have a very wide overview: a neuroscientists would know more than I do about molecular behaviour inside neurons but if you want a wide range of insights into different fields and the connections we can make between research in different areas of science, that’s my bread and butter.
You’ll find masses of the research I have read in the resources section of this site. There, you can chase up the research yourself and see if you agree with my analyses.
Q: How long should the event be?
A: I can adapt to your time-table. However, a session with adults really needs at least an hour and a half if you want to include Q&A; a talk for students really needs an hour. INSET can be anything from 1.5 hours to a whole day. A keynote is typically an hour and anything less is very difficult.
Q: How big an audience?
A: As big as you like! I do not charge more to speak to large audiences. Of course, if you want me to be interactive, larger audiences makes that harder. Also, it’s usually best not to mix ages – ideally no more than two consecutive years for student talks.
Q: How far will you travel?
A: As far as you like! I live about 70 miles North of London and can reach Stansted and Birmingham airports and stations. Of course, all my expenses must be covered. I keep costs to a minimum with the exception of long-haul flights, which would usually be Business Class. Experience has taught me that this is necessary if I am to remain healthy and in the best condition to work for you. See my International Speaking page for some more details but still enquire in the same way.
Q: What do you charge?
A: It depends. I compute my fee based on the complete time I think the work will take, including preparation, admin and travelling, as well as the day of the event itself. I am effectively working out the “cost” to me and charging accordingly. For something particularly high-profile or interesting, I might be able to lower my fee but I value my time and expertise highly and I hope you do, too. I believe you will get terrific value. Some types of event are quicker to prepare than others. Do discuss your budget with me, as there are often ways we can reduce my cost.
To give you an idea, I tend to work on the following minimum guidelines for UK trips:
- A day or part day spent at home on preparation and admin – £250
- A day or part day spent travelling – £300
- A day or part day spent with you at your venue – £500
Expenses are extra and will be discussed in advance. See the International Speaking page for anything that might be different.
Q: Can we see your Terms and Conditions?
A: Certainly. They are here.
Q: How far in advance should we book you?
A: Don’t delay, especially for overseas trips. My diary is likely to be full 3-5 months ahead and I usually take bookings 6-12 months or more ahead. We can always make it provisional if you aren’t sure of your dates or budget. Because I have to keep enough time in my diary for writing and consultancy work, I can’t fill my diary too full with events so I do quite often have to say no. This is why getting in early will help you!
Q: What should we do now?
A: Contact me using the form. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t decided what you want: discussion is free!
Frequently asked questions about my boots
Q: You’re known for loving great footwear – has this always been the case?
A: Absolutely not. This is another thing about me that has changed profoundly since my hopeless youth. I used to be blind to the value of great boots or shoes, which was fortunate as I only had two pairs apart from wellies: my Clarks school T-bars and my plimsolls. Mind you, at the time I was also into brown crimplene trousers – or “trews” as I may actually have called them – the ones with a strap under the foot, which was unnecessary as the static electricity would hold them in place just fine. Seriously, I was the most appallingly dressed girl in my year. There was a lot of brown going on. And a lot of nylon.
Q: So, what happened?
A: A pair of purple suede boots came to me in a dream and my life changed. (No, I’ve no idea but people change and I did, thank goodness. I also ditched the crimplene.)
Q: We heard that you always celebrate a new book contract with new boots. Is that correct?
A: Absolutely. It’s a necessary part of my brand. I can’t let myself down.
Q: And you’ve had 100 books published. So…. Really?
A: Ah, well, 100 books but not 100 contracts. Some of the books were contracted as a series, such as the Thomas the Tank Engine books that I never even mention at all because they were so stressful to write. So they don’t count as individual pairs of boots, I mean contracts.
Q: Don’t you think you’re missing a trick there? You could have 100 pairs of boots.
Q: So, changing the subject, favourite pair?
A: Unfair question. That’s like asking which is my favourite child. They are all perfect. Even the ones that are crazily uncomfortable. And especially the pink tartan ones. Or the purple tweed ones that are identical in style to the pink ones so I could, should I wish to, wear one of each. But then the black patent ones are worth a mention, as I’ve replaced them three times with an identical pair. And the cute red suede very pointy ankle boots are eminently gorgeous.
Q: Favourite brands?
A: I am completely uninterested in brands. Couldn’t care less. The boots just have to do their thing brilliantly, whether that’s looking elegant, being an amazing colour, or being extremely pointy. Pointy is very useful.
Q: Have your boots ever had a round of applause?
A: I’m really glad you asked that because in fact, yes, they have. I was once chairing Marian Keyes at a televised event at the Edinburgh Book Festival and I was wearing some cute red suede very pointy ankle boots. Marian asked the audience to give my boots a round of applause, despite the fact she was wearing some pretty cool footwear herself.
Q: Have your boots ever saved you from a difficult situation?
A: I’m really glad you asked that because in fact, yes, they have. I once had to travel to London for a photoshoot with The Times when The Highwayman’s Footsteps was published. I was asked to turn up in Docklands late in the evening and to be dressed appropriately, which to me could only mean any old dross clothes and some cute red suede very pointy ankle boots. I arrived in London, from Scotland, and wisely left all my luggage in Liverpool St station so that I wouldn’t have to lug it through the underground etc.
Wisely again, I didn’t want to travel through the underground etc wearing cute red suede very pointy ankle boots so I put them in my capacious handbag. This turned out to be particularly wise when the heel of the boots that I had judged to be sensible for walking through the underground system in broke off on an escalator. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to walk with a broken heel but it’s surprisingly impossible and correspondingly amusing for everyone else. And you can’t change footwear while on an escalator in rush hour – trust me on this. So, I hopped to the platform, which unfortunately was at the end of many long passages full of annoyed commuters. Once on the train, the next problem was how to change into cute red suede very pointy ankle boots while being leered at and while I didn’t know how much time I would have between stations, especially as this was the very new Docklands Light railway, which I’d never been on and which could have had very short spaces between stations, for all I knew.
I still hadn’t achieved the boot transfer by the time we got to West India Quay or whatever it’s called. Eventually, I had to sit down and just get the deed done and not care who was watching, even the leering man.
The photoshoot went surprisingly smoothly, mainly because the photographer didn’t ask me to smile, because he was nice and nice photographers don’t ask me to smile, and because actually I did keep smiling, smiling every time I thought how wise I had been to pack those cute red suede very pointy ankle boots in my handbag.
Personally, I think I should get some more. After all, what if the heel comes off on an escalator?